The New Orleans Opera’s performances of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts on March 3-6, 2016 proudly showcased Loyola University New Orleans. Directed by the College of Music and Media's very own Director of Opera Carol Rausch, the opera composed in 2000 is based on the 1993 novel by Sister Helen Prejean, which led to a famous 1995 film starring Oscar Award-winning actors Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.
The operatic treatment, through the power of music, offered intense drama and a moving statement about a true story based on a Louisiana murder case. Tomer Zvulun of the Atlanta Opera directed a seasoned cast, including leading baritone Michael Mayes in a signature role as convicted murderer and death row prisoner Joseph De Rocher.
Loyola’s acclaimed opera program trained many of the singers in supporting roles, including Loyola Extraordinary Professor of Voice Tyler Smith as Howard Boucher and Ken Weber, resident minister and university minister for liturgy and music, as the prison warden. The cast also included alumni Casey Candebat as Father Grenville, Amy Pfrimmer as Kitty Hart, Taylor Miller as Guard 1, and Jake Penick as Motorcycle Cop/Guard 2, as well as current student David Murray as a younger brother of Joseph De Rocher.
A number of alumni and current voice students sang in the chorus, including: Allison and Randy Bunnell, Catie Devoe, Annie Halbert (who also played Sister Catherine), Cristina Lopez, Amanda McCarthy, Haley Whitney, Katie Bertschi (also Mrs. Charlton), Mirella Cavalcante, Olivia Garcia, Maggie Probst, Michelle Johnston Richards, Reid Canal, Bart Folse, Kameron Lopreore (also Solo Inmate #1), Daniel Sampson, Dennis Shuman, Aaron Ambeau (also Solo Inmate #2), Frank Convit, Matt McCann, and Dylan Tran (also Solo Inmate #4).
The New Orleans Opera worked for a long time to produce this important contemporary work, and it finally enjoyed a “coming home” to Louisiana, Rausch said.